DATAx: "Visualize your visualization"

DATAx recently caught up with data visualization manager for the Scottish parliament Andrew Aiton for a quick chat about what it means to be data driven in enterprise today


This year's Data Visualization Summit in London offered invaluable guidance into how to best present your data. Speakers delved into the value of storytelling with your visualizations, with journalists such as Sam Joiner illuminating the value of leveraging data analytics to bring readers deeper into the stories.

Meanwhile, next door at the AI & Big Data Innovation Summit, a number of valuable insights were also on offer to its delegates; from a fascinating presentation around automated AI solutions to illuminating conversations centered around the industrial benefits of automated analytics.

However, the DATAx team wanted to also get the perspectives and impressions from those in attendance at both events, so when we ran into Andrew Aiton, data visualization manager for the Scottish parliament and subject of our popular interview: Data Visualization in government, we couldn't miss up a chance to ask him a few questions.

DATAx: What is the biggest hurdle you've run into trying to be data-driven in the past?

AA: The one we are struggling with at the moment is getting people to understand what data visualization is and improve data literacy through the organization. What we're seeing often in visualization is people will hand you a spreadsheet with no concept of what they actually want out of it. So we find it's a lot more about speaking to people and teasing ideas out of them and much less about design work and the such. It will take time to get a full culture switch up….

Visit DATAx New York, a festival of innovation featuring five stages, 100 speakers and 700 innovators under one room, on December 12–13, 2018

DATA: Are you noticing a change, generally?

AA: Yeah. With the folk I've been working with for a few years, I've kind of got them trained up to give me exactly what they want. But with us expanding the service, with more people in different departments where they are less analyst-like and more generalists… it's a bit more difficult as they aren't as sure of what they are after.

DATAx: What is that one issue you find yourself keep having to explain over and over again to others?

AA: I suppose because we aren't doing as much interactive/dashboard driven stuff most that a lot of people have been talking about today (how to display insight), for us, it's getting people to understand that they are trying to tell a story more than show one thing. That's the one thing I have been trying to drill into them; that they may need to do a bit of research and analysis and even storytelling themselves before they come to us to try and visualize it.

DATAx: What does business agility mean to you?

AA: I suppose…I'm not sure how to answer this diplomatically enough…

DATAx: There are no diplomatic answers…

AA: For me, it's being able to work in a number of different areas and understand a number of different things. To be both flexible and approachable. Because a lot of people work in silos and that doesn't really help when you're trying to build something around core ideas like data analysis. Because I've found we need other departments such as IT to support us with technology or the public information department to help us with branding.

So, I think to be agile is to be approachable and be part of one big organization as opposed to "this team does this and that team does that" as it sometimes can be.

To find out more about the latest AI, machine learning, IoT and big data trends, register your place at DATAx New York, which takes place at New York Hilton Midtown on December 12­–13, 2018

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